MemberJanuary 17, 2021 at 9:17 am
This is right on, Thomas:
Many of the scholars [in the RSM docos] have the whole region of water (both the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba) as Yam Suph, and probably we need to accept that. It is natural that the Bible with its focus on Israelite lands is going to more frequently mention the part of this body of water that forms their southernmost boundary point.
I agree with these points: both gulfs (Suez and Elath-Aqaba) and the Red Sea of which these gulfs are the two northern extensions are all part of the biblical “Red Sea” (yam suf in Hebrew, erythra thalassa in Greek, mare rubrum in Latin). The ancients must surely have known this. The biblical texts show that the authors had excellent geographical knowledge. How much regional precision is revealed by notes for when they *entered* and *left* wildernesses?
Num 33:15-16 NRSV
(15) They set out from Rephidim and camped in the wilderness of Sinai.
(16) They set out from the wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth-hattaavah.
And yes, having crossed the first gulf (probably in its isthmus through the border lakes) and headed across the Sinai Peninsula to Kadesh and thence to Canaan, the Israelites had no further experience of the Suez Gulf. Hence thereafter the head of the Elath gulf as their southernmost boundary point accounted for all subsequent references to the Red Sea.